Albania in 1990s Part II

By | December 15, 2021

If Western countries continued to offer their support to Berisha in the name of international stability, internal consensus quickly waned. The new Constitution, which was supposed to protect human rights, guarantee the separation of powers and protect private property, but which at the same time assured the president such extended powers as to allow him the authoritarian exercise of his prerogatives, did not obtain a qualified majority in parliament; submitted to a popular referendum in November 1994, it was rejected by 53, 9 % of voters.

The referendum had the effect of weakening the government’s position, already compromised by numerous ministerial reshuffles, the loss of support from the Republican Party, widespread corruption allegations relating to public administration and the continuous exodus of the population to Italy.. The gradual recovery of the financial situation, in fact, was not yet contributing to substantially improve the country’s economy: unemployment remained at around 15 %, cereal production remained at very low levels, and industry was the only sector in recovery. it was the construction industry, and in fact the subsistence of a large part of the population was entrusted to the remittances of emigrants, illegal trafficking and international loans.

Popular discontent grew in the months immediately preceding the legislative elections scheduled for May 1996. In the first round, the Democratic Party won amid allegations of irregularities and fraud by international observers and opposition parties (which had blocked funding for the electoral campaign and effectively banned access to the media) who withdrew from the competition requesting the cancellation and repetition of consultations. The second round, held on June 2, was boycotted by the opposition, and the Democratic Party won 122 seats out of 140. In the following months the situation of the country underwent a further worsening: the bankruptcy, in the first months of 1997, of financial companies in which 65% of the population had invested their savings provoked a wave of popular protests that soon took on the characteristics of an anti-government revolt. Insurgent committees took control of large parts of the south of the country after looting barracks and ammunition depots, while paramilitary forces loyal to the government organized themselves mainly in the north. The impossibility of regaining control over the whole national territory and the continuous desertion of the army soldiers who were going to join the insurgents pushed Berisha to release the political prisoners and to accept, with the Italian mediation, a provisional coalition government, led by by the socialist B. Fino, who was supposed to lead the country to new legislative elections. This did not help, however,1997, the European Union decided to send to Albania, with the authorization of the UN Security Council, a multinational protection force under the Italian command, composed of 7000 soldiers and called the Alba mission ; lasted until August 1997, the mission had humanitarian purposes and the task of protecting the OSCE observers in charge of verifying the smooth running of the elections, scheduled for June-July 1997. These registered the victory of the Socialist Party, which over the previous years had renewed and strengthened itself by regaining the internal credibility that it seemed to have lost in 1992. For Albania history, please check

Socialist leader Nano, head of the new executive, and President of the Republic R. Mejdani (elected in July after Berisha’s resignation) faced very difficult tasks: to restore public order by confiscating illegally held weapons and fighting mafia organizations that had gradually replaced the powers of the state; to restore the national economy while reimbursing the citizens involved in the collapse of the financial institutions; regulating the exodus of the population which continued uninterrupted throughout 1997 ; finally, to restore the authority of the law at all levels, from the central to the peripheral level of local administrations. In September 1998, after the killing, in unclear circumstances, of a close collaborator of Berisha, the insurrection attempt promoted by the latter brought the country back into a climate of extreme instability, in which the resignation of Prime Minister Nano and his replacement with a another socialist exponent, the very young P. Majko. The stability of the country, therefore still very precarious for a long time, was then further tested by the repercussions of the crisis that exploded in Kosovo in the first months of 1998 and by the subsequent NATO war against Yugoslavia (March-June 1999). Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Kosovo joined those who had found refuge in northern Albania in the previous months. All this increased the consistent and uninterrupted flow of illegal immigrants towards the coasts of Italy and especially of Puglia. At the same time the Albania it became the center of humanitarian activities deployed by Western countries, as well as one of the main logistical bases of military operations. This role and the huge resources linked to international aid contributed to increasing the already widespread illegality that remained one of the central problems of the country.

Albania in 1990s Part II